There’s a good reason why the highway linking Paris to the French Riviera is called the autoroute du soleil (highway of the sun). With four miles of sun-kissed turquoise shores sheltered by the imposing Préalpes mountains rising behind the city, Nice is blessed with 300 days of sunshine per year.
But while Nice has one of the warmest winter climates of any Mediterranean destination, this iconic city is still predominantly a summertime destination and it's between June and August when the crowds are at their heaviest. The shoulder seasons offer arguably the best value for a visit, but Nice is a special spot all year round. This month-by-month guide to what's happening in Nice can help you plan the perfect time for your visit.
The summer high season is busy and beautiful
The months of June, July, and August are when Nice’s Promenade des Anglais swells with visitors enjoying the relentless sunshine before it dips below the airport in the west amid a blaze of orange. The balmy evenings are when the city is at its most pleasant and the cafes and bistros of the Old Town spill out onto the street, especially when July’s Nice Jazz Festival is in full swing.
The winter low season has low hotel prices and chilly evenings
The famous Promenade des Anglais actually takes its name from the number of English aristocrats who loved spending winter in Nice in the 19th century (and that includes Queen Victoria herself). These days travelers can afford further-flung winter sun destinations, but Nice still maintains fairly mild temperatures in the winter – usually powder blue skies followed by chilly evenings. Low hotel prices make this time of year an ideal time to explore parts of Nice that normally fly under the radar during the warmer months.
The spring and fall shoulder seasons are the best time to visit
The shoulder seasons are arguably the best time of year to visit, as the strain of tourists eases but the bright weather is still more than adequate for most visitors (especially those from sun-starved northern climes). The days are warm enough to lie in the sun and, though you’ll probably need a jacket in the evening, the temperate is usually mild enough to eat and drink al fresco.
January is the time to explore Nice to its fullest
January is the quietest month of the year and the time to make the most of the city, from its tranquil sun-kissed beaches to superb museums like the Musée Matisse. The oldest rally race in the world – the Rallye Monte-Carlo – kicks off just down the road in Monaco every January and the varying Alpine conditions make this one of the world’s more unique motorsport events.
Key events: New Year, Rallye Monte-Carlo.
February brings the color of the Carnival
A tradition dating back to the 19th century, Nice comes alive with color for two weeks in February when the gleefully ostentatious Nice Carnival rolls into town. Expect comically large floats, large crowds, and busy stalls offering lavender, fabrics, and street food.
Key events: Carnaval de Nice, Play Azur Festival.
March goes lemon crazy in Menton
One of the French Riviera’s most famous festivals – La Fête du Citron – takes place in nearby Menton and celebrates the annual production of specialty lemons and other citrus fruit. Back in Nice, the Festin des Cougourdons is a celebration of Niçois culture and heralds the beginnings of spring.
Key events: La Fête du Citron (Menton), Festin des Cougourdons.
April welcomes the spring sun
By April, the weather can start to feel like summer during the day and spring is in full swing. Avril aux Jardins (April in the gardens) takes place throughout April at Jardin Albert 1er and there’s a variety of workshops (including pottery, bakery, and candlemaking), dance performances, and artisan stalls.
Key events: Avril aux Jardins, Easter.
May is about the glitz and glamor
With the weather getting balmier by the day, La Fête des Mai kicks off in the Roman ruins around the Gardens of Cimiez. May is also a good month for day trips either side of Nice, with Hollywood stars arriving for the Cannes International Film Festival and the glamor of Formula 1’s most famous race – the Monaco Grand Prix.
Key events: La Fête des Mai (Spring Festival), Open de Nice Cote d'Azur, European Night of Museums, Cannes Film Festival, Monaco Grand Prix, Fete des Roses.
June is the official start of the summer season
Summer begins with high temperatures and higher hotel prices. La Fête de la Musique is an event celebrated across France every summer solstice on June 21 and music spills out into the streets from Nice’s bars, cafes, and bistros.
Key events: Fête de la Musique, Festival du Livre (Annual Book Festival), Fête de la Saint-Pierre et de la Mer (Festival of St Peter & the Sea).
July is the month for music
Nice is swelled with tourists enjoying the endless July sun, but there’s plenty happening too. The Nice Jazz Festival has been running since 1948 and regularly features a star-studded line-up, while Bastille Day is a bombastic national celebration held every July 14 in France.
Key events: Nice Jazz Festival, Bastille Day.
August sees the hottest temperatures
August is typically the hottest month of the year in Nice and it’s also when many locals go on vacation. So expect crowded beaches and the narrow streets of the Old Town to be packed, but also look out for the spectacular Assumption Day fireworks on August 15.
Key event: Assumption Day fireworks.
September offers perfect Riviera weather
September is one of the best times of year to visit as hotel prices begin to fall while the weather largely stays the same. Though if you do want to slip indoors for a while then European Heritage Days is a Europe-wide event where members of the public are encouraged to immerse themselves in their local history and culture, with Nice’s museums, galleries, and churches all throwing their doors open.
Key event: European Heritage Days.
October is the best value time to visit
While October sees fewer tourists, the weather stays pleasant in Nice and hotel prices are very reasonable. It’s also a final chance to spend a solid amount of time on the beach on a warm afternoon.
Key events: French Riviera Marathon, Tous au restaurant.
November celebrates with wine and music
Though the weather is cooler in November, the event calendar begins to pick up again. C’est Pas Classique! Is a series of over 40 free music concerts across a range of genres, while the third Thursday of November sees the celebrations of Beaujolais Nouveau Day – an annual festival for the release of a new batch of the fresh and fruity young wine.
Key events: C’est Pas Classique! Free music festival, Alpes-Maritime Marathon, Beaujolais Nouveau Day.
December comes alive with Christmas markets
The colors of Christmas arrive in Nice in December and Place Masséna turns into a jaunty Christmas village with food stalls, towering trees, and bright fairy lights. The weather is chilly in the evening but plentiful glasses of toasty glühwein are on hand to help.
Key event: Christmas Village.